The new year. Time to take down the holiday decor, finish off the last of the gifted candies and sweets and look forward to the fresh start of a new year. Often this involves lighter meals with more salads, to compensate for over indulgence over the last month. For some, this time of the year means a new exercise regime, a promise to take better care of yourself. Resolutions to be a healthy, more authentic person.
For me, and my little family of four, it means having the courage to do something we’ve always dreamt of doing: taking an extended period of time off our regularly scheduled lives to live in and experience Italy. It means putting all our posessions in storage, packing a week’s worth of clothes in sturdy backpacks and hitting the road.
The opportunity to take this adventure arrived to us suddenly one day, while the idea has developed over many years. What better to time to go, while my children are still interested in spending time with us. I’ve been been promising to teach them Italian for years, and now we have incentive and inspiration to learn.
A year off work and traditional classrooms, to embark on a journey together, exploring the back roads and small villages of Europe, camping and farm volunteering for room and board.
I expect days of long uncomfortable walks, unhappy/hungry/tired kids, awkward situations and lots of conversations lost in translation. But they will be overshadowed by beautiful moments spent together, breathtaking scenery, awe-inspiring ancient sites, the simple pleasures of browsing foreign grocery aisles, trying new flavors and simple rustic foods, the joy of getting lost with no specific destination in mind, and inspiring shared experiences that don’t require translation.
In this spirit of travel, adventures, and preparation, my thoughts wander to road food, and staying healthy while traveling. Spending the last month bouncing from one relatives house, to another, I have come to realize the importance of keeping a regular meal schedule for the kids, as well as adults. My suggestions: Stick to your usual mealtime hour the best you can on the road. Pack nutritionally-dense foods that your family enjoys, like nuts, dry fruit, energy bars and maybe a jar of nut butter and jam. Attempt to always have a raw or fresh vegetable with every meal, to keep your intestines happy. And always, always drink lots of water. Skip the sugary drinks and replace them with water, local milk or fresh fruit or veggie juice. Maybe even consider adding a multi-vitamin and good quality fish oil to your dietary travel routine. Also, don’t forget vitamin C, or an Emergen-C, at the first sign of illness.
In preparation for our upcoming journey, I’ve been making dry foods to carry with us on the road. Fruit leather from assorted frozen summer berries, blended, spread thin on a parchment- covered cookie sheet and dried on the lowest setting in the oven overnight. Smoked dried wild salmon, brown sugar cured, and dried in the smoker on low for a few hours. And a batch of home dried prunes and maple syrup local walnuts. We’re trying to save those goodies for when we actually arrive overseas and get the hunger attacks, but they look and taste so delicious, I’m tempted with a bite whenever I catch sight of them in my bags. Resist! Resist
Though we will be away from home for quite some time, we plan to stay connected to our community we’ve developed over the last couple years. After all, we do plan to return one day! I will continue to write while traveling, with column in the local WallaWalla paper, the Union Bulletin, and posts here on my blog. Stop by and see what we’re up to! Happy travels and happy New Year!